New software makes lethal heart conditions easier to spot

Software developed by BHP founding member the University of Birmingham has the potential to improve the identification, prevention and treatment of dangerous heart conditions.

The heart’s pumping ability is controlled by electrical activity that triggers the heart muscle cells to contract and relax. In certain heart diseases such as arrhythmia, the organ’s electrical activity is affected.

Cardiac researchers can already record and analyse the heart’s electrical behaviour using optical and electrode mapping, but widespread use of these technologies is limited by a lack of appropriate software.

Computer and cardiovascular experts at the University have worked with fellow researchers in the UK, Netherlands and Australia to develop ElectroMap – a new open-source software for processing, analysis and mapping complex cardiac data.

Dr Kashif Rajpoot, Senior Lecturer and Programme Director for Computer Science at the University of Birmingham Dubai, commented: “We believe that ElectroMap will accelerate innovative cardiac research and lead to wider use of mapping technologies that help to prevent the incidence of arrhythmia.

“This is a robustly validated open-source flexible tool for processing and by using novel data analysis strategies we have developed, this software will provide a deeper understanding of heart diseases, particularly the mechanisms underpinning potentially lethal arrhythmia.”

The incidence and prevalence of cardiac disease continues to increase every year, but improvements in prevention and treatment require better understanding of electrical behaviour across the heart. 

Data on this behaviour can be gathered using electrocardiogram tests, but more recently, optical mapping has allowed wider measurement of cardiovascular activity in greater detail. Insights from optical mapping experiments have given researchers a better understanding of complex arrhythmias and electrical behaviour in heart disease.

Dr Davor Pavlovic, of the University’s Institute of Cardiovascular Sciences, said: “Increased availability of optical mapping hardware in the laboratory has led to expansion of this technology, but further uptake and wider application is hindered by limitations with respect to data processing and analysis.

“The new software can detect, map and analyse arrhythmic phenomena for in silico, in cellulo, animal model and in vivo patient data.”